Cyber Defense Competition Calls on Highschoolers To Solve Network Security Problems

The non-profit Air Force Association (AFA) has announced the coming of CyberPatriot II, which it promotes as possibly the largest ever high school cyber defense competition. Beginning Nov. 7, teams from schools in 44 U.S. states, South Korea, and Japan will compete to be the first to solve a series of cyber defense problems crippling a computer program specially designed for the competition by Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).

In the first round of competition, Nov. 7, competing teams will log in online and have up to six hours to solve, completely and correctly, the entire range of vulnerabilities affecting the network. They will be ranked according to success and speed as tracked by the SAIC system. The goal of the competition is to promote youth interest in the rapidly growing field of cyber security, which many experts say will be the key to keeping the country, its economy, and its knowledge base safe and effective in the future. Stoking student interest in the field will help ensure there are enough qualified practitioners to meet the inevitable demand.

"We're excited to announce this unique, competitive learning experience," said S. Sanford Schlitt, AFA's vice-chairman of the board for aerospace education. "This is a dramatic expansion of the CyberPatriot competition that began last year as an AFA initiative to promote student career interest in cyber security and other science, technology, education and mathematics career fields."

The top 24 finishers in the first round, as well as a "wild card" team from a consolation round, will go on to compete in the online semifinal round, in which they will try to correct more vulnerabilities on an even more complex network. From there, the top eight teams will fly to Orlando, FL, for an all-expenses-paid trip to the finals. This round will take place at the Rosen Shingle Creek Convention Center, in conjunction with AFA's Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 19, 2010. Here, participants will try to solve the most difficult set of challenges to date while "phantom" team of expert hackers will work simultaneously to undermine their efforts.

The 125,000-member AFA promotes public understanding of aerospace power and its critical relationship to national security. Cyber security expert and former Air Force Reserve colonel Dr. Greg White, currently of the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), served as advisor for the competition.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.

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